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AI could be the factor that shifts competitive landscape across a number of industries. A KPGM report found that “AI will play a role in creating new winners and losers. A key question now is who will move up the AI activation learning curve the fastest … and at what level of investment.”
Oren Etzioni, chief executive of the Allen Institute, said that “when AI is successful, there is a huge benefit. But the cost of doing research is getting exponentially higher. As a society and an economy, we suffer if there are only a handful of places where you can be on the cutting edge.”
And those cutting places increasingly tend to be the biggest names in technology: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.
Some argue that for academia to be able to continue to participate in AI research that tech companies will need to provide them some level of support. Otherwise, Ed Lazowska, professor at the University of Washington, said that “we’ll see a significant dilution of the ability of the academic community to produce the next generation of computer scientists who will power these companies.”
Academia has been further hurt recently by a brain drain of CS professors specializing in AI that have left for more lucrative offers at big tech businesses. A New York Times article estimates that 23 professors were hired by Alphabet, 17 by Amazon, 13 by Microsoft, and Uber, Nvidia and Facebook have each hired seven. Uber, in 2015, hired 40 people from the Carnegie Mellon robotics lab.